Friday, July 31, 2009

Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out...

Please pardon me as I slam slight light on the head and heart (?) of a potential patient, a fellow woman and an absurdly, dangerous heroine of the absurdly, dangerous anti-choice movement (tricks up the sleeves galore):

Excerpt by Todd S. Purdum from Vanity Fair, No. 588, August 2009: More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin's extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of "narcissistic personality disorder" in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--"a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy"--and thought it fit her perfectly. When Trig was born, Palin wrote an e-mail letter to friends and relatives, describing the belated news of her pregnancy and detailing Trig's condition; she wrote the e-mail not in her own name but in God's, and signed it "Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Army of None

A spirit inspired by romantic notions of honor, a kind of morality founded on the fashion of the age, can only be felt by a few officers, whilst the main body must be moved by command, like the waves of the sea; for the strong wind of authority pushes the crowd of subalterns forward, they scarcely know or care why, with headlong fury. (Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman)

I am a volunteer abortion case manager for a local, grassroots organization. I am not a social worker but I case-manage for social workers’ clients if they need an abortion. I am not a funding case-manager because not having money doesn’t make it go away either. I am not an abortion provider because the termination inspiration I provide will not unimpregnate you.

Perhaps, you too, feel my plight. I take calls at the crack of dawn, on lunch hours, right in the middle of analyzing data for my paid job, allllll night long. Instead of happy hours, I arrange guaranteed hours of madness where I am unequivocally available to direct you to your optimal abortion experience—based exactly on how much money you have. Or don’t have.

I settle myself in a quiet corner, in the park, down the empty aisle in the grocery store, outside the restaurant. I rattle off the logistics of access to abortion over and over and over again until I find myself comfortably numb, taking meditated breaths in the Nth hour, struggling to assertively describe Step 244* in obtaining an abortion if you’re dirt poor.

I engage in intensive conversations with women who have been raped and beaten, who are homeless and starving and pregnant, and when the telephone conversation is over, I often picture my concerned and compassionate clients either balking at my crazy-making antics and *recommendations* or slitting their throats—lest they attempt to get an abortion in this sometimes downright wretched, free country. Then I realize we itemized everything she owns and she doesn’t even have a dull knife.

I am not unusual. I am not original. I am not noble. I am imperfect and often harbor several instances of doubt with every case. I’m carrying a torch. I am one of many (though not nearly enough) humans who find it strange that our society does not invest infinite value in listening to the gatekeepers of this species here on earth, same society that relishes headlines and cover stories about post partum psychosis and neglectful, abusive, sociopathic, murderous husbands, same society that gets all icky inside when addressing abortion.

I could say I volunteer because the work is necessary, meaningful and rewarding in terms of my ideals and goals in this lifetime, because the connections to women in my community are priceless and their needs should so clearly not be ignored, because the bonds I share with my fellow Abortioneers are precious, because the madness that accompanies secondary trauma sometimes alchemizes into brilliance, sharp wit, transcendence.

But I volunteer because I have to. No, no, no. This is not self-righteous, secondary trauma exercising itself through my ego—this is a sad truth. While everyone else is still outside lighting sparklers for Obama in-between attempts to stimulate the white bred economy, you and I are trying to help women get in touch with the national funds and the national funds seem to be diminishing right before our very uteri.

What if there was no money for abortions? What if the government and tax payers did not fund core reproductive health care ever and the valiant national funds that seemed to hint at socialized abortion care all shut down because it was just too much—because funding abortion care is unsustainable for any one patriarch who wishes to also stay a patriarch? 

Only one thing is certain to me today but today is only today and yesterday I was billowing into my pillow about something else terrible like raped women and lonely teens and apathetic men and wanted, degenerate pregnancies...

Dear national fundszzz (you know exactly who you are),

Thank you.

But abortion case-managing is NOT re-creating systems where women can’t get through.

*Step 244: Say abortion 3 times and then turn around in front of the mirror as fast as you can with your eyes closed 3 times while patting the top of your head and rubbing your belly

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mile a Minute

Lots of abortiony thoughts passing through my head lately. Had to accumulate them over the course of two weeks while waiting to post. Anxious! Unfortunately I have since forgotten some of them, but a couple stood out:

Abortiony Thought 1: Was doing some teaching recently when one of my pupils came across a new vocab word: Proliferate. I try, as I always do, to break down the etymology of words so they can put meanings together. Embrace your Latin and Greek roots, folks!

Upon closer examination of the word, trying to isolate a meaningful prefix, what do I find but the following: PROLIFE! RIGHT THERE IN THE FRONT OF THE WORD! I had never noticed this before! The students and I shared a larf, but I was so tickled by that strange coincidence. Oh, how the pro-lifers love to proliferate. Proliferate unwanted, uncared-for children; proliferate poverty among single/unemployed/uneducated/all-of-the-above mothers; proliferate violence against people and facilities working within the boundaries of the law; proliferate HATRED towards those who support a woman's right to choose.

And so on.

Abortiony Thought 2 (SPOILER ALERT): Caught a glimpse of the Spring Awakening tour. Can't say I loved this show; as a lover of musical theater I thought it left something to be desired. But the central concern of the show is adults' and parents' refusal to discuss the facts of life with youth. Pubescent boy meets comely girl, girl bears child, mom sends girl to sketchy old man up the street, girl sings with the angels. I'm sure this is not unheard 1890s Germany. And I could tell that it gave folks the impression of "phew! Glad that's not an issue 120 years later!" So it would seem.

Today, a whole century later, many parents still believe that their children are stupid. That their daughters are satisfied that their monthly hemorrhaging is God's gift. That their sons don't wonder what Jane from 5th period looks like in a sweater. That good old fashioned values will keep kids out of the sack.


To this day, I don't think I've ever met a virgin. And it's not even because I hang around with a bunch of immoral degenerates. Even the people I know who claim never to have had intercourse have experimented in myriad other sexually satisfying routines. SEX HAPPENS. TO YOUR CHILDREN. No need to belabor this point. Agreed?

Just some things to think about. Feel free to share your random abortiony thoughts below!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Abortion work is hard. Rewarding, but hard. One of the hard things about this work is that the rewards are not external. It's rare we get kudos from the community we live in; a thank you from a referring agency; and for some of us, we might not even get a big "well done" from our own employers. I was recently told by a colleague that it's impossible to be successful in this work. I still don't actually know what she meant by that, because I whole heartedly disagree.

I guess it comes down to how you measure success. I happen to measure it by the amount of time I'm able to dedicate to helping a woman. I measure it by being able to provide information and answer as many questions as possible so that the 16 year old I'm talking to can decide whether or not, for herself, she'd prefer to have a medical abortion or a surgical abortion. Usually, I feel successful in being able to simply be there for the women we serve. I think if you have a lot of other expectations, then perhaps, depending on how you measure success, this may not be your kind of work...

...Because you really aren't going to get a lot of external rewards. It's not like we make a lot of money. And it's not like we don't carry our work home with us. We do. We become part of each woman's story. Their stories about how so and so helped her with X amount of money for her abortion; or how so and so held her hand during her procedure; or, conversely, how so and so wasn't patient and kind and warm to her (hopefully we all are). After years of doing this work, I still find it difficult not to bring it home with me, if only emotionally. We think about the women we serve, just like Banana Grabber said on Sunday. She was sick as a dog, even fainted, but still felt she needed to be at work to help the teenager, who had been a victim of incest, get her abortion.

Sometimes, we're so busy taking care of everyone else's feelings, that we don't even get to appreciate the moments that make us proud. Recently, I had such a moment and though it occurred a few weeks ago, I still carry this story with me every day. It nourishes me and helps me feel so proud - ever so proud - to do the work we do. A woman called my organization to inquire about abortion services and how we could best serve her. She was 22 weeks pregnant and was carrying a very much wanted pregnancy. She was an older woman and this was her first child. There was a very severe fetal indication that perhaps could be fixed with many surgeries post delivery, but possibly not. She and her partner had the resources to fly out of state to a medical school where the top physicians in this defect worked. They met with the physicians and also with families who had similar experiences. They just couldn't make a decision, though, whether to terminate the pregnancy, or continue on. They were heart broken. The local hospital offered to perform the abortion, but required labor induction (which she did not want to experience)on the maternity floor (which she was horrified by). I was horrified for her. I could not imagine the pain she would've endured by having an abortion in the maternity ward, where women were happily welcoming their wee ones into the world, while she would be grieving the loss of her's.

Staff spent hours - hours - of their time, including personal time, with this family. Staff brought the client in, after hours, on a holiday, to talk. To give a tour. To do options counseling. To tell them everything we could offer: a private room with private entrance/exit and her own restroom; some of the highest levels of anesthesia available, even during her two days of laminaria insertions; very personalized care with the ability to have family and friends gather with her in her private waiting room. I was very proud. I was proud that my colleagues busted their ass for this woman. I was proud that they spent hours with her. We focused on her. It was about HER.

She didn't have her abortion, as far as I know. At least not with us. And I suspect she continued the pregnancy. But it doesn't matter. Some may think this was "unsuccessful." I disagree. I feel that it was an utter and complete success. We offered all that we could for this woman. We recognized her story. Her circumstances. We showed her compassion and love. We recognized this was her choice. And her choice alone. And regardless of her choice, we honored it. We honored her. We trusted her. We were at our best. And I am ever so proud.

I think of her every day. Every.Day. I send her loving thoughts, her baby loving thoughts. I wish for them peace and happiness. I hope that their child will have the quality of life they dream of. Meanwhile, I sit at the office and look around the faces of the women I work with. The strong women who keep doing this work, despite the threats, despite the backlash, despite the lack of recognition and reward. They are the warriors. The ones who will be there when the ship goes down. And how lucky am I do be surrounded by such strength? How lucky are we all to do this work, to provide all the choices and options for women so they can make their own decisions.

This is where I feel rewarded: internally. In my heart. To my toes. I am proud.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

System of a Down

It is Tuesday. Just another Tuesday in Abortion Land. Today, I am literally weeping in my cubicle.

"Are you okay?" My coworker asks me with a look of concern on her face. You know how when you are already on the verge of tears, and then someone asks you if you're okay? And then it's over, the tears really come pouring out.
"I'm fine, I'm fine, just leave me alone." I am not sure how I managed to say all the that but, I did. She gets the hint and backs off.

I suppose I should go back to the beginning.

Tuesday morning, 3:45 am. Still not asleep. I am trying not to think about the fact that if I don't get to sleep really soon tomorrow will be utter hell because I will be so tired and still have so many women who will need help. I try not to think about the fact that each passing minute I continue to lie in bed wide awake is another minute I am not sleeping and another percentage I will be more tired. My throat hurts, my stomach is upset. Finally, I manage to doze off and wake up when my alarm goes off at 8:00. I snooze until 8:30, when I decide I really do need to get up.

On the way to work, my stomach begins to hurt. Badly. So bad, in fact, I pass out. I come back to consciousness, drenched in sweat. Several alarmed bystanders look at me inquisitively. My first thought: I need to hurry. I need to be available to my patients. I have one particular patient today, a teenager, who was raped by either her step dad or her brother. The patient seemed to be in a state of permanent shock. She is 20 weeks pregnant, twins. Yesterday, her family made her walk to her counseling appointment at the clinic. I routinely wonder how people could be so heartless, but this case especially. I need to get to work so I can make sure she is seen.

I wipe the sweat dripping off my face with my shirt and continue on my way to work. I get to the office and there are a ton of women who need help. More than usual. I start explaining how sick I am feeling to a coworker and she replies, "Why don't you go to the doctor?" I am not sure why this thought hadn't crossed my mind. She is right. I am not okay and haven't been for a few weeks. I should seek medical attention. I call the doctor and, magically, they have an opening today in two hours. I scramble to finish up as much work as I can, and go to the doctor.

When I come back, I have a huge pileup of women who need counseling. Most of them are urgent cases. I am not capable of assisting five people at once, which is what I need to do at this moment. I start scribbling down information and my head starts overloading. I feel like crap and all I want to do is lie down but I can't because I have all these women who need help and I have to help them and if I don't they might have to reschedule and if they reschedule they will need more money and where will they get that money because the father is useless and she is living off food stamps and she already has kids and she already pawned her TV and it's not fair she is even in this situation in the first place and then the next thing I know I am crying. Silently crying in my cubicle. I need to make sure the teenager is seen. I need to make sure the five people who are at the clinic right now are okay and at least let them know I am trying to help them scrape some money together. But, right now, at this moment, it is all too much and I can't do it. I cannot do this right now. I feel ashamed saying it, but I just want to go home.

I allow myself to cry for a few minutes. Then, I tell myself it is time to suck it up. I call everyone back. The teenager, most importantly, will be seen thanks to the help of several national funds who were able to cobble together the vast majority of the funding she needed.

I know we make a lot of pleas on this site for donations to funds, but seriously, they make a huge difference. And on a day when an Abortioneer like myself is not doing so well, wondering if I can even make it through today, it is the coming together of so many different people to help a young woman get seen that makes me see the light at the end of the tunnel. Funds like Third Wave, who exist thanks to monthly donors, cannot continue to aid women who so desperately need help without people donating. Won't you?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Would I Do?

I hate when I call a client to a counseling session and the first thing I notice is the cross around her neck or the church logo T-shirt she's wearing. I hate it because of what I think and what I'm supposed to think and what some of Them made me think. Of course, I don't fear terrorism when I counsel a client wearing hijab, but my gut reaction is to fear Christianity.

If I had a religion, it would probably be Christianity. My religious experience and exposure was half-hearted, at best, but the majority of it revolved around Jesus Loves Me and Christmas trees because that's what my ancestry was down with. I stopped identifying with it, though, when I realized that it wasn't required and especially when I realized that I couldn't claim a religion that was based on salvation of its followers and its followers only. And yes, that's a characteristic of most religions--so I don't have one. It surprises people that I believe in a God and I pray because I think I give off the activist/athiest vibe. And because I'm an abortioneer.

The God I believe in is a pro-choice God. But the God that Christians stereotypically believe in is one who knows and loves babies from the moment of conception and who damns to hell mothers who abort, right? That's what we know from the majority of the antis who attack our clinics and our providers. If it's in God's name and it's a Christian belief, THAT'S the terrorism that I fear.

When I counsel women who have religious reservations about their decisions, those women are almost always Christians. I can get by with some pseudo-amateur-pastoral counseling with my Christian/Unitarian/Pagan/Jewish/Buddhist world view. I see the women opening up to me. I like being able to talk about a God without pretending it's something I believe in. But still, I fear those women's judgement of me and I fear what will come out of their mouths. I've heard, "Abortion is wrong, I don't believe in it, but I need to do it, and then I'm going to forget it happened." (Those sessions are long.)

But recently, I counseled a woman who was wearing a church group T-shirt who said, "Some of my friends have come out to me and told me they had abortions, but they were afraid to tell me at the time because they know I'm so involved in my church. But I told them, 'I'm involved because I love it, but your life is your life, and I'm your friend, and my job as a Christian is not to judge anybody.' An now that I'm here, I know that God knew this. He knew this was going to happen, He knew what decision I would make, He will get me through it, and He brought me here." My heart swelled to hear the best and only affirmation of the Christian faith I've ever been exposed to.

Unlike that client, I'm still learning not to judge. This story of mine doesn't have a succinct point because I don' think I've reached it yet in my abortioneer experience. It's a constant battle to understand a religion so complex and so maligned and so good. I sometimes struggle with hearing derogatory words about faith, and then I turn around and say the same things. When abortioneers talk about religion and spirituality, it's so often in the context of morality and ethics. That isn't a question for me because we all know I have no qualms with abortion. My talk is about prejudices--theirs AND mine.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Every Woman Has a Story

I work almost every day with women who are trying to get an abortion. Many of my conversations are brief and to the point. I get them what they need, and they’re on their way. I have so many people to talk to in a day. Sometimes they seem to blend in, lost their job, getting evicted, on food stamps. They seem the same, woman after woman, but they are all individual women with their own stories.

Today I spoke to a woman in Illinois. She’s 18 trying to go to school, while working at K-mart and helping her grandma with the bills. When she found out she was pregnant, she started working on getting the money together. She even got help from the man involved, her boyfriend. Unfortunately, neither of them have much money, so she had to do the infamous price chase. She is now well into her second trimester, and the clinic doesn’t have its own anesthesiologist, so she has to wait next week when they can get one in. Even with funding help, she hasn’t gotten all the money together. We talked about her fundraising options. She has already taken out two loans – one for school and one to help her grandma pay bills, she has no other family to get help from, her boyfriend gave her all the money he had, and she already put up the title to her car to help out someone else.

For the past couple of days I have been speaking to a woman, whose story started out pretty simple, pretty ordinary. She was about 7 or 8 weeks by her last menstrual period. She had her appointment, had all her money together. She was all set. Except there’s something else. She was pregnant by an abusive man. The abuse got so bad that she had to leave. She packed a bag, got on a plane, and went to the only safe place she knows. This made her miss the appointment she had and caused her to spend the money she set aside for her abortion on a plane ticket. Now she’s in an unfamiliar city, with no job, no money, and she’s still pregnant. She’s now about 13 weeks. She needs to get seen because now her price will only continue to go up. She now has to rely on the people she is now staying with to get her to the clinic and help her pay for the abortion.

Both of these women and so many others are depending on people they know and small abortion funds to be able to get access to reproductive health care. This is a shout out to abortion funds, and if you don’t already, please consider donating to a local abortion fund in your area or a fund like this one – The Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project. They are a national fund, helping women all over the country, and work directly with clinics to help fund women in need. Times are tough for everyone, you, these low-income women, and these small abortion funds. Really any assistance you could give would be appreciated.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ohio state Rep.: You poke it, you bought it

Hey, remember Highlights for Kids -- the magazine in the dentist's office that had the short stories and games in it? Well, sometimes I miss it, so here's a fun exercise: Can you find all the ways in which this attempt at legislation BLOWS? Draw a circle around each instance of misogyny. Draw an "X" through anything whose consequences are not well thought-out. Cut out any parts which seem just plain ignorant, and smear boogers on them. The dental hygienist will see you now!

A bill was introduced by a western Ohio lawmaker last week that would create a requirement to obtain paternal consent before an abortion may be performed in the state of Ohio.
That's PATERNAL, as in the "father" of the embryo or fetus. This country already has a few dozen "parental consent" laws, in which a pregnant minor must get her parent's (or parents') permission for an abortion (see Sparky's latest post), but laws requiring an adult woman to get permission for reproductive decisions have already been struck down as unconstitutional.

Well, encouraging communication about reproductive decisions, that's all well and good, but you can't enforce something like that...Can you?
[House Bill 252] would state that no person should induce or perform an abortion on a pregnant woman without the written informed consent of the fetus' father.

Providing a false biological father would be a first-degree misdemeanor the first time, which means not more than six months and jail, and a maximum $1,000 fine," [Rep. John Adams, R-Sidney, who introduced the bill] said. "And on the second occasion, providing false information would be considered a fifth-degree felony."
When asked what a woman wanting an abortion would do if she could not locate the father, or if she did not know who the father was, if the bill were to become law, Adams said, "She would then not be able to have an abortion."

Actually, Rep. John Adams of Sidney, Ohio, has experience with these things. He introduced an almost-identical bill back in 2007! At that time, he was also saying that a woman seeking an abortion would have to provide "a list of possible fathers" who would be DNA-tested for a match. Sadly, at the time he didn't realize that you cannot do DNA testing of a pregnancy before the tenth week of pregnancy at the very earliest (via chorionic villus sampling at 10-12 weeks, or via amniocentesis at 15-20 weeks), that over sixty percent of abortions take place in the first eight weeks of pregnancy (and another thirty percent between eight and twelve weeks), and that CVS and amniocentesis carry a risk of miscarriage (around 1%) and are actually discouraged unless the potential benefits outweigh that risk.

But I guess someone pointed out to Rep. John Adams of Sidney, Ohio, that making a woman who is 7 weeks pregnant wait three more weeks for a CVS -- or making a woman who is 13 weeks pregnant wait until she is 15 weeks for an amniocentesis! -- when everyone knows that the earlier an abortion is performed, the simpler a procedure it is and the shorter the recovery time, might seem counterproductive or perhaps cruel or maybe even like meddling in her medical care. Or maybe someone pointed out that the state would have to contact any number of men for genetic samples -- if one resisted, would the state have to subpoena him? -- and since men are whole human beings with rights and dignity, it would be unacceptable to routinely invade their privacy in such a way. In any case, Rep. John Adams of Sidney, Ohio, seems to have dropped the paternity-test idea for now, and admits the state might in practice have no other option but to actually take women at their word.

But at least the bill's sponsor is mostly honest about his intent:
"There needs to be responsibility for actions," Adams said. "As someone who is pro-life, this is also an attempt and a hope to keep the two people who have created that child together, and I suppose if you just go back to the simple beginning, there is merit to chastity, and to young men and women waiting until marriage."

Adams added that he simply does not believe abortion is an "avenue that we should pursue, and abortions should be rare," and he said HB 252 is one attempt to make sure they occur less frequently.

Adams said he would like to see HB 252 move through the legislature, and "at least open up the debate to keep young people together."
-Wanting to punish sexuality, because it's not fair for young people to have sex before marriage now that I am old: Check!
-Blatantly assuming that men are not up to the charge of respecting their partners' bodily autonomy, and are only "allowing" abortions to take place because current law says it's not their uterus, and that's why this bill is going to help stop abortions: Check!
-Preferring a miserable couple to an unpossessed woman as a matter of policy: Check!

What Rep. John Adams of Sidney, Ohio, is in fact trying to do is transfer legal ownership of the poked uterus from the pokee to the poker. Once I fuck someone, she is my personal babymaking oven, and it makes no sense for an oven to suddenly grow legs and walk itself to the abortion clinic, now does it? Really, I will always find it hilarious that when a woman's ovum and a man's spermatozoon, and the woman's uterus and the woman's blood and the woman's food and the woman's oxygen, come together to create a zygote>embryo>fetus, the man wants a 50% share (or more!) in all related decision-making. That's not how it works, buddy. You get out of it what you put in, and if all you put in was your penis then it sounds to me like you're trying to have your cake and eat it too. Oh god, mixed metaphors, ice-cream headache.

On a more serious note, check out the concerned representative of the people, defender of the little guy, standing alongside Rep. John Adams:
Rep. Seth Morgan, R-Huber Heights, a co-sponsor of HB 252, said there are a "good number of fathers" who are left out of the decision-making process that leads to abortion. "I have heard a good number of horror stories when the father is left out of the process," Morgan said.
You want horror stories, Rep. Seth Morgan of Huber Heights? I'll give you a good number of fucking horror stories. Here's one from a friend of mine: "This reminds me of a woman [from Ohio, coincidentally] I talked to, who was going to have her abortion here, but she was in a domestic violence situation and it got really bad, so she finally packed a bag and took off and ended up with her cousin in Massachusetts. So she missed her appointment. Like these fucking assholes, who abuse women to the point where they have to run away, should make them have their kids." Should that woman have to go back to her abuser to ask his permission for an abortion?

And recently I worked with a woman in a very similar situation, except this one was in limbo between Florida and Virginia -- her court date for a divorce from her abusive husband was in one state, and the safe haven of her mother's house was in another. She already had two children as a result of his sexual abuse, and she was desperate to have an abortion before he found out about the third pregnancy. Every woman is singular and unique, but these stories are all too common and familiar. There was also the woman whose boyfriend held her prisoner, I'm not even joking, in their home when he realized she was pregnant. Should he have a say in her decision about starting a family with him?

And then there are the women, even girls, whose partners regularly try to sabotage their efforts at contraception: 26% of a small Boston survey, 51% of a large Chicago survey (PDF link). And there's the woman I counseled who was seeking an abortion because her partner was injuring her in the belly and had already caused one of her twin fetuses to miscarry. The truth is, by and large, decent men already are privy to their partners' reproductive decision-making processes, and I'll say on the record that as long as you're in a good relationship, that's ideal. But men who are not decent already use the threat of unwanted pregnancy and childbearing, as well as violence toward born children and wanted fetuses, as tools to control, possess, and terrify women. A bill writing their ownership of women's bodies into law, giving them the legal trump card over women's fates, is only likely to make it worse.

Don't get me wrong: I don't actually think this bill will pass -- it's ludicrous, unconstitutional, and would embarrass the state of Ohio if it did become law and was taken straight to court -- but there's just so much that this guy either has never even thought about or considers acceptable collateral damage in the war of cultural abstractions he's waging. He says promiscuity and irresponsibility are the enemies, and society's moral fabric is the victim; but his battle plan is to arm some sadists and give them the right to own slaves.

Whew! Sorry to get all pessimistic on you there! I'll just cap things off with another brilliant word from our co-sponsor:
I think it is not a bad idea to have a fully informed group making the decision," Morgan said.
Oh yeah? Here is what my partner had to say about that: "There should be an awesome version of that law, that allows fathers to have a say, but only if they participate in a televised game show where you spin a giant Wheel-of-Fortune-style device with a combination of horrible pregnancy mishaps. Like: sterility, losing life savings, the mom gets to leave you with sole custody of the kid and book it. The kind of amendment you could slip into a bill that people wouldn't notice."

And maybe the game show can have an "Ask The Audience" option, where they poll the fully informed group to make the decision:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Irresponsible and noncompliant

It's Friday morning, I went into work ready for my week to be over. It was a typical Friday, quite a few people were still scrambling to raise money for their 2 or 3 day procedure that had to start on Friday or would increase in price again, by as much as $300 or $400.

A seventeen-year-old young woman came in for the second time in hopes of getting her abortion. The first time she showed up, she was unaware of parental consent requirements and she was sent home because she didn’t have a parent with her. She was given the information about parental consent and judicial bypasses, a means of getting a court order stating a minor is mature enough to have an abortion without the consent of her parent. It is then up to her to find a way to communicate with her parents or begin the process of getting a judicial bypass.

This patient showed up with out any parent or anyone for support and was at least 13 weeks pregnant. At that point she was told, you can’t do this on your own, state law mandates that you go through extra hoops because you are a few months shy of legal adulthood. Now as she sat in the waiting room one of the clinic staff members, who had to communicate with me about financial assistance for the abortion, made a couple very disturbing comments. I talked to him about her total cost and if we should wait on the ultrasound before completing financial assistance.

“She’s really rather irresponsible.” The staff member rattled this statement as he described her first visit to the clinic alone. I was quite taken aback and told him I would talk to her once he completed the ultrasound. I planned to try and step in and help counsel her through the remaining steps to prepare for her procedure. He then told me, “well, she’s really not going to be very compliant.” I didn’t know how to respond to my colleague. I was appalled and yet in the moment there was nothing I could say. I quickly set up the financial assistance without the ultrasound and told him to let me speak directly to her if anything changes.

In my mind, this young woman is 17 and pregnant and what a mind-boggling situation to be in. Especially if she doesn’t want to stay pregnant and now she’s under time constraints to maneuver through laws, regulations, and counseling appointments. She was told, you're running out of time but you still have to talk your parent into supporting your decision or else talk to a judge.

The word "compliance" infers that the woman is weak and subservient. The idea that she needs to be compliant, or yield to those in authority is ridiculous. I realize my colleague is probably exhausted and burnt out, but patients must be treated as human beings. Patients need to be empowered to understand how to access health care that is dictated by laws and policies mandating parental consent and 24 hour waiting periods. Our patients are confused, angry, sad, relieved, broke, burnt out, tired, they are a lot of things, but noncompliant and irresponsible are not accurate descriptors.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I dream of chatty ovaries


I do research so you don't have to do what you currently have to do, is no longer a pick-up line.

I do not wish to iron your blouses either.

Abortioneer: You mean to reduce unintended pregnancy?

Interested acquaintance: No. Abortion.

Abortioneer:  To clarify, we are speaking of abortion as a safe alternative to full-term pregnancy and giving birth, of women seeking the assistance of a skilled expert in uterine cleansing? So long as an abortion is a safe and accessible option to every woman of childbearing age, I don’t believe unnecessarily targeting abortion as a culprit to our dysfunctional planet is a fair use of time and energy.

Still interested acquaintance: I don’t think abortion should be a means for birth control and I have been working for years all over the world where women have abortions frequently.

Body language continues to reflect a growing and devout interest in this uncomfortable conversation where I begin to wish I hadn’t just gone to the bathroom, stepped outside with friends, been introduced to this man, then returned and settled to finish a new drink—lest I dismiss myself modestly and not forthright on the grounds of not having the energy to find common ground for abortion. As in, oh please don’t make me have this conversation when my horoscope suggested I might actually bond with a kindred spirit and I have finally peeled myself away from abortion care to toast a Friday night—who the HELL told this dude I work in abortion care because I did not.

Abortioneer:  I want to be clear that I understand—while not completely—the plight of women all over the world. I understand that some women wish to give birth but must choose an abortion. I understand that women wish to prevent having to have an abortion. I understand that abortion care is not care-full, safe and regulated primarily by women everywhere, and therefore could stand to improve for a plethora of incredibly heart-breaking reasons. Beyond these grave acknowledgements, I find speaking of abortion in negative terms to be counterproductive in an evolving society. I believe abortion helps women and I currently provide direct service to women who cannot access abortion care so feel strongly that work should be done to increase abortion care services, as well as maternal, fetal and child care services. When we speak of abortion in physically, emotionally or spiritually degrading terms, we degrade women who have abortions within the thirty odd years that they may tirelessly try to not get pregnant.

Too interested, obstinate acquaintance: But I am researching other, better means of birth control. The president has made a profound difference by repealing the Global Gag Rule.

Abortioneer:  That is excellent and I agree. I commend what you do. It sounds like we share a lot of similar goals and I admire your mission. We seem to be seeking a similar end point where humans are healthy and balanced and free. I do wish that the Global Gag Rule was not a prop in the political tug of war…

Acquaintance: ?

Abortioneer:  Oh. Well, you know how it’s repealed then reinstated? Democratic presidents repeal it in their inaugural January and Republican presidents reinstate or whatever it in their inaugural January. When will someone take it off the table and commit to it—as in, women’s lives are worth saving all day every day any day you name it and it matters.

Acquaintance must like my eyes or the way I talk—earlier he had observed my midwestern drawl sweetly: I think it’s so important to promote birth control services and eliminate the need for abortion. I think it’ s not a good thing for women to terminate their pregnancies.

Abortioneer:  Contraception is a vital feature to improvements to family planning and certainly we need unbiased sex education. Controlling fertility is a tricky science but I think we all know it’s not entirely scientific. Because we are so unique and changing, so will our desires and methods change over our lifespan? I support elevated access to family planning, but for some women, synthetic contraception or not having an abortion can be a terrible thing. In addition to your good and necessary work, don’t you think that abortion will still be necessary?

Note: This is not a question. The answer is yes. I am trying to be diplomatic.

Acquaintance: Have you ever had an abortion?

The bar is loud. Throughout the process of this *conversation,* the acquaintance inches closer to me. We play that conversational interaction game where I speak near his ear and he speaks near mine. I sense all along that he views this conversation as an attractive back and forth but I was resistant to debate and exhausted about abortion before he approached me, and in-between these sound-byte transcriptions, made several attempts to turn the conversation to something like flowers or food or music.

Abortioneer:  I’m sorry but this bar-talk is strange.

I dismiss myself on the grounds of my inability to find common ground for Abortion and turn to face the baby doll propped behind the bar, among the bottles—its head torn-off and displayed upside-down. It is holding a kitchen timer shaped like an egg.

I try to avoid Abortion Conversation with strangers because I cannot engage them without declaring my adoration for liberalized reproductive health care and sex education.

I want desperately for us to be happy in these bodies. I cannot stand to know that women are raped and beaten and bleeding or rotting to death all over the world right now. I take it personally because I believe the Earth would bestow great gifts of peace and thanksgiving on us eternally if we nourished our women, our gatekeepers and let Her breathe.

I try to picture a society where abortion is completely unnecessary and then I wander through my vagina, my cervix, my uterus, my fallopian tubes, to my ovaries. I try to listen to my inner flow that has been punctured many times by worldly toxins to locate the sound of my egg dropping and the speed of its pursuit. Indeed, if I could pin it precisely, ELECTIVE abortion would be unnecessary.

A woman, in consultation with the universe, all possible higher powers and her health care attendants, would reign delicately, tenderly, devoutly supreme over the cycle of human life within her body.

That is, assuming researchers didn’t continue researching how to extract her knowledge and know-it-alls didn’t continue negotiating her cycles as if they were rights and capitalists didn’t continue funding researchers and know-it-alls in hopes of selling her rite back to her and staying filthy rich forever—unless she can’t afford it.

Most importantly, I find common ground in my dreams.

Painting by Susan Seddon Boulet

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Judicial Review

No. I would not appoint a judge to the Supreme Court if he or she were not pro-choice. Period.

I'm sure many people feel that way. But who can say it? Not PC, buddy.

I remember them asking this of Obama and McCain at one of the debates last fall. Talk about awkward. How can you answer that without blowing your moderate cover? No fair! It's a trap! I just knew with all my heart that he could not, would not, appoint an anti to the high court. But I wept inside because he would not, could not, say it.

Good thing I'm not President. I just wouldn't be able to keep my mouth shut. I'd have the worst approval ratings from Repubs and Dems, for being such an asshole.

But Mr. President, who is the opposite of me in those respects, went and nominated Sotomayor, another female with too much to say. I like this wise Latina already. Even if she won't fully come out of the pro-choice closet, at least she's bright enough to recognize and admit that a white man couldn't possible relate to the experiences of a minority woman. And no offense to you awesome white men out there, but as a minority female I have to agree that it is quite the burden, regardless of being somewhat privileged. It's not that you guys don't care per se, but how could you ever appreciate what goes on in our lives? How could you ever understand feeling like you're the most visible person in a room? How could you ever experience your colleagues saying that you wouldn't have gotten into that elite university without affirmative action? How could you ever walk into a job interview and feel immediately like you're wasting your time? It's a jungle out there! And yes, I believe that the "richness" of my experiences as a woman and as a minority allows me to make better judgements than a male who has lived a charmed life in white America.

Forgive me for pulling the race card, but it certainly matters.

So hopefully this Sotomayor character is able to take that richness into account when deciding on abortion matters, should they come into play. In fact, I'd be disappointed if she didn't. Perhaps the most important thing that will save lady Abortion is women with experiences and voices who are not afraid to tell the truth to these white men.

Speak up Sotomayor!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Women Deserve Better

This gives me chills everytime I watch it. Wanted to share with you and all the other abortioneers out there.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lila Rose

Lila Rose, the seventeen year old who goes around to Planned Parenthoods trying to get them to do and/or say something illegal, has been dubbed "the new face of the anti-choice movement." Her strategy is to show up at a clinic posing as a minor, and then telling the staff her boyfriend is several years older than her and basically try to get the staff to agree to not report her to the police. Her "evidence" is often muddled video footage that is heavily edited, which to me, makes her pretty sketch, but lots of people seem pretty jazzed about her, so here we are. Of course, the thought that a clinic could be not properly reporting abuse is very concerning and I would definitely want clinics to follow the rules. That said, does anyone find it really disturbing that someone shows up at a clinic and purposely tries to get someone to to break the law? What is edited out of those tapes? What did she say to them to make them finally agree to not report it?

Obviously, if I have to side with anyone I am going to side with clinic, but also there is a lot of footage of people at clinics definitely advising minors on how to avoid being caught by the clinic. I think this is inappropriate and not okay, but at the same time, they are trying to help the patient at the end of the day, and these young girls do need somewhere to go. Further, if Planned Parenthood or wherever is like YES WE WILL REPORT YOU that makes me nervous the creepy older dudes who are sleeping with minors will just take them to a sketchy doctor to get the procedure done which is also bad. Because the problem here is creepy older dudes who like sleeping with minors (CODWLSWM). Not the minor. If we could make CODWLSWMs go away, then we wouldn't have this problem, right? How do we make CODWLSWMs go away?

I am also bothered by much of the footage because the staffer on the phone is obviously having a hard time and isn't quite sure what to say. They are trying to do the best they can and work within the law, giving her the best advice they can. This issue is really tough, obviously, and there are a ton of gray areas where I am not sure what is the "right" thing to do. Blerg.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The sound of silencing

"I just don't think abortion should be used as birth control."

"Nobody wants to have an abortion."

"Abortion is tragic, but necessary."

I've heard the above statements more times than I care to count. I know that I've said that I don't care how people frame it, I jut wish there were more people who were vocal about being pro-choice, but honestly, when you classify and qualify it, it's no longer a basic human right.

A woman who chooses an abortion does not deserve to have words put into her mouth. She has plenty of voice that she is probably afraid to express because it doesn't quite match those PC bumper sticker statements.

A woman has agency when she can say, "An abortion was the best choice for me, and I'm not sorry." She lacks agency when the right to have an abortion is taken away from her, but also when we tell her it's a tragedy that she can make such important decisions about her body. I've spoken with so many women who tell me, "This abortion will be a relief, and I'm so glad this clinic was here for me." Even the ones who say, "This was the most difficult decision I've ever had to make, but I know this is right," say it with empowerment.
Trusting women is unconditional. It's not enough to say that you can get behind certain circumstances. Some women really do use abortion as birth control because that's what it is, isn't it? Maybe another form of birth control fails, or maybe a woman can't stand hormones and her partner doesn't care about condoms, and maybe the healthcare system does not allow her to prioritize well woman visits or let her access affordable contraception. That doesn't mean she has to have a child. If abortion is her only option, it probably doesn't exist in a vacuum.

It's awful that we have to discount and stigmatize such individual experiences. When I counsel, I really do get to talk with so-called "welfare moms" who glow with pride about their five kids, who put their heads in their hands as they tell me about how hard it is to feed their families, and who hesitantly confess that they have the audacity to consider going back to school. The body language is shame. When they hear talk about how women get pregnant so carelessly and have abortions so guiltlessly, they learn shame. In the 20 or so minutes I have with them, I can only try fruitlessly to let them know how much I respect them and their choices, not in spite of their choices.

Let's put words back in the mouths of the women. As a pro-choice community, it is our job to listen and to speak out, but not to speak for.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Abortion Bans: No Good, Just Bad and Ugly

The last post I wrote reminded me of another issue in area of international reproductive health. Safety of abortion procedures. It is clear that when abortion is made illegal, or at least severely restricted, abortion procedures become more unsafe. We know this was true in the US during the pre-Roe days, and it can be seen now in other countries. I found some interesting statistics on the Guttmacher website. *Taken directly from the website.*

Worldwide, 48% of all induced abortions are unsafe. However, in developed regions, nearly all abortions (92%) are safe, whereas in developing countries, more than half (55%) are unsafe.[1]

More than 95% of abortions in Africa and Latin America are performed under unsafe circumstances, as are about 60% of abortions in Asia (excluding Eastern Asia).[1]

(“Facts on Induced Abortion Worldwide.” Guttmacher Institute. October 2008. Web. 08 July 2009. <>.)

I remember reading an article about the danger of ectopic pregnancies in South America – that I now cannot find. I did find this one, which is similar, Here is the third paragraph from this article.

In El Salvador, women who develop ectopic pregnancies -- when a fertilized egg gets stuck in a fallopian tube, giving it no chance of survival -- are kept under guard in a hospital. A prosecutor must certify that the embryo has died or the woman's tube has ruptured before doctors can intervene.

The article I wished I could put on here also stated that many doctors in these countries ,where abortion is banned and doctors are prosecuted, are so afraid of going to jail that some won’t end an ectopic pregnancy. How insane is that? Not only do women have to carry unwanted pregnancies, but some of them are forced to die from a pregnancy growing outside of the uterus – one that CANNOT be carried to term. SHE WILL DIE. Do they care? No. The religious talks an awful lot about the life of the fetus but doesn’t seem to care much about the life of the woman.

Now let’s look at the safety of abortions performed in the US. *taken directly from the Guttmacher Institute website*

The risk of abortion complications is minimal: Fewer than 0.3% of abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization.[12]

Abortions performed in the first trimester pose virtually no long-term risk of such problems as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.[13]

(“Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States.” Guttmacher Institute. July 2008. Web. 08 July 2009. <>.)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where all women could access safe abortion care? Let’s all see what we can do to make this a reality.